Without noticing it I’ve cut soda almost entirely out of my life.

I’ve always loved soda, as a youngster long sessions of AD&D with my friends was always faithfully accompanied by several 1.5 liter bottles of Coca Cola. Thus when I first moved to Brazil close to 7 years ago I fell in love with a local soda called Guraná Antarctica, sugary bliss in a glass, especial if served with ice and a slice of orange. A soda so delicious one of my best friends describes it as the liquid of the gods. My sister likewise loves this and it is a staple when she comes to visit… except the last time she came when I had entirely forgotten to buy it for her because without realizing it, I had stopped buying soda all together.

I didn’t do this for health reasons, I did it because in Brazil, nature grows like crazy and that was a problem. Specifically, after moving to our current house I acquired a garden and planted basil, and I suddenly found myself with the problem of what to do with it all. There is only so much pesto a man, his family, his neighbors and all his and their immediate friends can eat. Yet my single basil plant kept overproducing it’s fragrant tasty bounty. Mocking me.. Clearly this could be allowed to stand.

So I did what any sane person would do at such a junction and turned to DuckDuckGo, my search engine of choice for answers of what to do with massive amounts of basil. Unsurprisingly the Internet’s immediate answer was… pesto, but also basil infused syrup for making lemonade. Luckily my father in law is a gardener and during lime season he will deliver bags of excess limes from the gardens he works in, so it seemed worth trying.

This was such a success that now I regularly make 10-12 liters of syrup as friends and family have come to expect this lemonade at parties rather than soda as well as bottled syrup as gifts. Without noticing my wife and I stopped buying soda as we much prefer the balanced flavor of this lemonade. Not only that, as we can make it any time we want, it somehow removed the attraction do so compared to watching a bottle of soda empty and adding a new one to the shopping list. As a result we only drink lemonade a few times a month, thus cutting our overall sugar intake considerably.

The recipe

Washed basil leaves 2 parts sugar (by volume) 1 part water (by volume)

  1. Add the sugar and water in a pot and boil until the sugar has all been dissolved in the water and the liquid is transparent.
  2. Once the liquid is transparent turn off the heat and add as many washed basil leaves (I also leave in young soft stems, mainly because I’m lazy and don’t want to separate all the leaves) as the pot will contain, stir them into the syrup and cover the pot for 20-30 mins
  3. Strain the syrup to remove the leaves and put in clean bottles it for storage in the fridge.

To make 2 liters of lemonade 0.25L of syrup 0.25L of lime juice (or about 5-6 ice cubes of lime* depending on preference) 1.5L of water

  • I like to squeeze limes and freeze them as ice cubes as I tend to get large bags of limes occasionally. This keeps the juice fresh and in easily measured doses thus also avoiding the annoying question of “how much is the juice of one lime” in recipes.